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Original: My Most Excellent Pupils [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2016-5-16 14:28:20 |Display all floors
This thread is in reply to Samlam, author of "It seems the first prize is a copy". In this thread I want to talk about a few outstanding learners I had when I was teaching in China.

Generally, every teacher likes to mention that his or her pupils, or at least some of them, are "smart", "clever", "sharp". Foreign teachers mainly are engaged in teaching English, so their opinion covers a very small academic area that they can assess: the mastery of English. If pupils fail to lap up English to a satisfactory extent, then are they "dumb"? No, of course not. At least not automatically.

But it is a disservice to the pupils to judge their grasp of English only when so many other intellectual faculties may be more relevant. For example, a pupil may be outstandingly good at writing Chinese characters and be totally ignored by her English teacher...

I have another way of assessing pupils' intellectual capacity. Here are a few pupils I met in my career in China:

The first was a boy aged 17, who put it in his head that he wanted to study at a Western high school. I asked him why; he said he couldn't learn what he wanted to learn at a Chinese high school because everything was geared to sitting final exams. He wanted to know things because he was keen on knowing them, not because they were important subjects. I tutored him for about one year. It was a thoroughly enjoyable time, yet I had no high hopes for the boy because high schools don't recruit foreigners in mid-stream. We tried to enroll him in Australia and were duly turned down; we tried in Britain, and he was accepted.

A few years later, I was approached by a Business English student in Guangzhou. He wanted to improve his, of all things: Latin. He had been coached in Latin by another foreign teacher and after one year had become fairly good at the language. Why did he study Latin? "I just like it", he said. He told me he actually hated studying Business English but he had to because his parents were funding his studies.

I met yet another guy, this time a 15-year-old, who also wanted to study Latin. He was fairly good at English but he had interests far beyond what was on the school's timetable.

Finally, I was hired by the parents of a 12-year-old boy to tutor him in English. He spoke English as fluently as many Chinese English teachers - that is, a lot more fluently than any of his classmates. However, the greatest impression he made was with his erudition. He was a hobby biologist, specialising in spiders. One day he asked his father to come and pick me up for an excursion to a forest. In that forest half-way betweeen Guangzhou and Dongguan he went catching spiders which he then put in glass containers to take home and keep in aquaria. He knew everything important about spiders. He also played the guzhen and piano and knew the biographies of most of the great European composers. For a twelve-year-old, he was far ahead not just of his peers - he was ahead of even grown-ups.

I have had many pleasant and positive experiences with a number of pupils and students, but these four guys stand out for two reasons:

They all decided autonomously what they wanted to learn, and they achieved their goals very well.

They all were BOYS.

This is perhaps the most baffling discovery, since in general, boys are laggards not because they lack I.Q. but because they get spoilt rotten by their parents and seldom show a cooperative spirit and diligence at school. It usually is the girls who impress teachers as the more manageable and teachable pupils. The girls that foreign teachers like to praise are conformists who do well because they obey, but the four boys I mentioned did even better by doing things only they wanted to learn, not their teachers.

Therein lies, probably, the dilemma: school is not a playground. It is a bootcamp which makes nobody fit. It makes everyone a conformist. The best conformists get rewarded. The vast rest? Neglected.

But the vast rest also wants to go to college, if not because of some innate interest, then because they feel it is their right or because the path beyond university is the golden path to a brighter future.

Education quantified, commodified, instead of an education that brings out the innate talents and gifts everyone is born with, albeit with different ones. The desperation of the also-rans necessarily leads to them trying by dishonest means to pass exams and to obtain degrees.

High schools should specialise in different orientations so that pupils can develop their full potential during the three years of high school and be better prepared for their future. Their own interests should be given more prominence.  I think the Baccalaureate system would ameliorate the situation a lot. Bac students get streamed into language learners, science learners and others. Whether someone is good at sciences rather than languages shows early.

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Post time 2016-5-17 02:59:16 |Display all floors
From your headline I was wondering  who you were making eyes at.

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Post time 2016-5-17 08:59:18 |Display all floors
futsanglung Post time: 2016-5-17 02:59
From your headline I was wondering  who you were making eyes at.

Certainly not at you.

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Post time 2016-5-17 14:37:15 |Display all floors
Thank you very much for sharing your teaching experience with us.
          You talk to the point that Chinese students work for exams, so they find it bored in learning. Besides, they are required to get a good mark in the exams. When they fail to meet the requirement, or not up to the standard, they might get a lot of negative words from teacher, students, and even their parents, which really hurts them. So you can imagine that students do cheat in the exams when there is an opportunity.  It is the consequence. Personally, Learning is kind of happy thing. Try to encourage kids to learn in a joyful way. Seneca, You do a job in your teaching. However, it goes to the opposite side now in our schools. We should do more in self-examination.

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Post time 2016-5-17 15:50:02 |Display all floors
seneca Post time: 2016-5-17 08:59
Certainly not at you.

Thank dog for that, we leave such behaviour to Kbay

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Post time 2016-5-18 11:41:25 |Display all floors
You had a student in China?

Which stopover was that?

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Post time 2016-5-18 13:12:39 |Display all floors
robert237 Post time: 2016-5-18 11:41
You had a student in China?

Which stopover was that?

Instead of insulting the poster for writing an original piece, why not devise something of your own?

You could, for instance, tell us more about the trip you made to Malaysia to meet the woman half your age you had been grooming via the internet.

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